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Walking in the footsteps of Saroyan

As the year ends, students often search for opportunities to improve their grades. For one percent extra credit, Greg Stobbe encouraged his freshman honors English class to attend the annual William Saroyan walk.

At first I was hesitant to go, but because I needed the extra credit, I decided to give up my Saturday for the walk through downtown Fresno on April 26.

The William Saroyan Walk with Ron Eskender was more than I expected partly because I didn’t know Eskender had 15 years of experience with the walk. He is a retired Fresno teacher and a self-styled history ?nut.’

Eskender was born in Fresno and grew up in Saroyan’s downtown neighborhood. It first started with Eskender telling basic facts about Saroyan.

“Somebody has to tell Fresno’s history and Saroyan’s life so we don’t forget it,” Eskender said.

Saroyan was born on August 31, 1908, to a family of five kids and a father that was a failed poet and writer. Saroyan’s father died when he was only three years old and his mother placed her children in an orphanage in Oakland.

After five years of working as a maid, Saroyan’s mother got her children out of the orphanage and move to Fresno, California. At the age of 13, he bought a typewriter for $15 and went to Fresno Technical High School to learn how to type.

He would write stories and send them to Story Magazine. In 1934, Story Magazine loved two of his stories and they became a part of his first book, A Daring Young Man on a Flying Trapeze, which was translated in all European languages.

Saroyan won the Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Circle Award in 1940. He also won the First American Playwright in the same year as The Time of Your Life. In 1934 he won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar for writing (best original story), “The Human Comedy.”

We stopped in many places including the Saroyan Theater, the Evening Herald Park, Courthouse Park, Emerson school, and Saroyan’s birthplace at 625 Broadway.

This walk not only taught me a lot about Saroyan, but also a lot of history about Fresno. I can now better appreciate Saroyan’s Human Comedy after walking the places he wrote about. We read it in English class this year.

While campus student, Jeff Torosian, ’03, never met Saroyan personally, his great grandfather, Nazeret Torosian, knew him as a friend.

“I ?met’ Saroyan through stories my great grandfather would tell,” Jeff said. “I am honored to have a family member who was Saroyan’s friend. Besides reading The Human Comedy, I also have a book Chance Meetings by Saroyan and my grandfather is mentioned in chapter 36 and Saroyan said he learned a little something from my grandfather.”

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